5 Ways to Make Your Next Trade Show Profitable and Sustainable

Profitable Tradeshow

Tradeshow Marketing PrintingTradeshows are a powerful form of marketing if they’re done right. Unfortunately, many tradeshows are knee-jerk decisions by reactive sales and marketing teams and it often shows in their execution and results. The great news is profiting from tradeshow selling is easy once you have the fundamentals nailed down.

Beyond marketing and sales strategy we have to also make sure that our trade show booth and participation are aligned with our sustainability strategy and the values of our potential and existing customers. In-short it’s possible to be green and profitable even with your tradeshow marketing.

Here’s a quick checklist of things you can do to make your tradeshow booth and experience profitable and sustainable:

Before attending the tradeshow:

1. Make sure this is the right event for you. The Pareto principle or 80/20 rule states that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. These could also be referred to as “A” customers. Before saying yes to buying a booth at a tradeshow dig into the demographics of the potential attendees. The tradeshow should have a high concentration of “A” customers otherwise you could end up with a long list of unqualified prospects.

In addition to this, according to sales author Bill Gibson, you may also want to ask the following questions before committing:

  • Are the organizers credible?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How many of these shows have they managed?
  • Are they financially stable?
  • Where does your deposit go? What if it does not run?
  • Is it sponsored? Does the sponsor compete with you? Is the sponsor credible? The right sponsor will ensure success, because their image cannot afford a failure.
  • Have I contacted some past exhibitors? Ask for last years list and phone a cross section of exhibitors.
  • What are past attendance figures? What is expected this year?
  • Is there a geographically closer event that could yield the same results and require less travel (saving time, money and reducing your carbon footprint)?

2. Get Social Early. 
Make note of the conference social media hashtag well before the event. A hashtag like #sohosme, the one the Soho Business Expo uses for their events can help you find other attendees, sponsors and potential customers that will be attending the event.

Engage these people in advance and begin laying the foundation for in-person connections at the event. In addition to this make an effort to reach out to other exhibitors on LinkedIn and Twitter in advance of the show and begin building rapport and alliances. Even if you and two or three other companies promote each other at the event your foot traffic and lead generation will improve.

 3. Amp Up Your Booth. Design your booth with form, function and the environment in mind. Design has a massive impact on the curb appeal of your storefront in retail. Booths are truly temporary retail spaces in high traffic areas. Too many people just show up with a table, a banner and some brochures and give very little thought to how they’re going to attract the attention of people passing by. Here are some things to consider or implement when designing your booth:

  • Think about using two or three pop-up banners for the back and sides of your booth instead of a large traditional booth that is heavy to ship and difficult to assemble. This saves money and reduces the environmental impact of the shipping process not mention reduces set-up time. Most banners can be printed on recycled or agripaper as well.
  • Make sure your store looks open. In other words resist the temptation to hide behind a long table full of products or computer/TV screens. Use smaller high-top tables near the sides of your booth where your team can greet people and engage them as they walk by. A large TV screen playing an engaging loop presentation or video near the back of your booth will draw people in.
  • Find a way to stand-out in a sea of boring tables; consider reaching out to a local party rental company for the necessary tables, chairs and accessories for your booth. Most will have everything you need for a daily rental rate. They will have everything from basic set-ups to ornate elaborate backdrops, pillars and light schemes depending on your budget and branding requirements. From a sustainability stand-point rental is more responsible than buying especially if you’re only using these items once or twice a year, in addition to this it alleviates the need to ship these items to another state or province for a tradeshow further reducing emissions.

At the Event:

4. Use comfort to keep them in your booth. 

  • At a recent Grainger tradeshow BuildDirect.com floored their booth with comfortable interlocking 3’ x 3’ rubber mats made from recycled tires. After walking in dress shoes on a hard conference floor many attendees would stand in their booth and remark about the relief they felt. In addition to this the unique flooring design gained people’s attention and also became a discussion piece.
  • Free charging stations with multiple adapters for smartphones and tablets accompanied by some chairs are also great ways to attract and retain visitors to and near your booth.
  • Some tradeshows allow exhibitors to serve refreshments at their booths; an espresso machine with coffee served in real cups adds value and makes sure people stay until they finish their drink. Resist the temptation to use Kerug like machines with disposable cups, this will increase waste and allow people to walk away before they finish their coffee.


After the Event:

5. Follow-up Soon and Follow-up Often. Once someone leaves a conference as an attendee or and exhibitor they often arrive back at the office buried in tasks they need to catch-up on. The single biggest waste of marketing and sales efforts comes from failing to follow-through. Most marketing ideas aren’t given enough follow-up to really show their true potential. Have a plan to follow-up at the conference or tradeshow and then several times immediately after the event.

Many people are resistant to follow-up more than once because they are afraid that they’re annoying their prospect or spamming them with unwanted communications. This is only true if your follow-up lacks creativity, relevancy and value. Here are a few ways you can maximize your new relationships with follow-up:

  • Follow-up on-site. Book a small meeting room in the hotel business center or a large suite instead of a regular hotel room at the conference. A large suite usually costs $200-$300 more than a regular room but they usually have a full lounge area that can be set up as a secondary presentation room for VIPS. After initial conversations on the floor of the convention center you can book one-on-one meetings with key contacts. This type of meeting during the conference or trade show can be infinitely more productive than a follow-up phone call a week after the event.
  • Follow-up with printed materials. Yes we have many digital tools we can and should use for follow-up BUT too many marketers overlook the statement print can make. Imagine the contrast between receiving one of the hundred follow-up emails someone gets after an event compared to receiving a physical marketing package that includes a handwritten thank-you note from someone you met at a conference. Many people have reduced print spend due to environmental concerns. No one wants to contribute to deforestation if they don’t have to. This is one reason why digital marketing can be attractive. However, there is a treeless option; sustainable printing is competitively priced and contains no tree fiber. This type of printing is done on Sugar Sheet paper and also is produced using far less energy.

    This brochure is printed on sustainable Sugar Sheet paper.

    This switch can help you make an additional positive statement about your sustainable marketing practices while helping you raise above the digital noise with hard-copy marketing materials and a personal touch.

  • Follow-up with multiple value-added touches. In addition to following up with a customized print package combine it with multiple media to maximize your impact. While at the event make sure you capture Twitter, LinkedIn, and various other social media profile details of the key people you meet. Do send a follow-up email the day after the conference and another one week later (if you haven’t gotten a response). A whitepaper or how-to-guide is a great value added gift to email after the event.If they are in fact on Twitter or LinkedIn reach out and say hello on those networks as well, and resist the temptation to pitch them, think connection and relationship building. Your goal is to continue the conversation from the event.

These are just a few ideas to help you make your next conference or tradeshow more profitable and sustainable. You are investing a lot of time, energy and resources with an event like this. A little planning, sustainable thinking and creativity can go a long way to increasing your return on investment.